The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

Eek! How to avoid a scary amount of sugar at Halloween

Eek! How to avoid a scary amount of sugar at Halloween

Witches, ghosts, and monsters might be showing up at your door this month. 

But do you know what is really scary? The amount of sugar kids and adults consume at Halloween. 

A fun-sized candy bar contains 2 to 5 teaspoons of sugar. A cup of regular granulated sugar contains 48 teaspoons of sugar, equivalent to approximately 25 fun-sized candy bars. 

And adults are not immune from sugar overload. Two-thirds of parents say they have taken Halloween candy from their children, with 57 percent of them admitting to hiding the purloined candy in their bedroom, according to a 2019 survey by OnePoll. Another 63 percent of adults buy more candy than they will need for trick-or-treaters, so they can have a little extra lying around afterward. 

What can we do to make Oct. 31 a healthier day for all kids and adults? We asked Jennifer Ruby, WellSpan registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist, who witnesses what occurs when people eat too much sugar. 

"I see the devastating effects of acute and chronic diseases. I see that a lack of knowledge plays a huge role in the choices we make," she says. "I want people to understand what is in their food and that by making better food choices and eating in moderation, kids and adults can make positive lifestyle changes that greatly affect their short- and long-term health." 

Here are her tips: 

  • Reduce the downstream sugar by handing out different treats at your house this year. 

A few edible ideas: clementines, bags of popcorn, pretzels, 100-calorie snacks, or a water bottle. 

A few non-edible ideas: pencils, spider rings, glow sticks, temporary tattoos, or bubbles. 

  • Have a conversation with your kids before they go out trick-or-treating that sets expectations on how much candy they can eat that night and how much they can eat going forward.  

Jennifer's suggestion: one or two pieces on trick-or-treat night and then two to three pieces of candy a week. Portion control is very important.

"If you're going to eat one mini candy bar, just eat one mini candy bar," she says. 

  • Once the big night is over: do not use candy as a reward or withhold it as a punishment. 

Food should never be a bargaining tool, Jennifer says. Giving sweets as a reward teaches kids that sweets are "good" and encourages them to reach for them later as a reward for themselves. 

  • Ban the plastic pumpkin overflowing with candy from your kitchen counter and the candy dish from your break room at work. 

Simply do not put candy where it is easily accessible and always visible. Even the most strong-willed person has a tough time resisting a tempting pile of candy. 

"Out of sight is out of mind," Jennifer says. 

  • Give the candy an expiration date. 

At the end of a month, throw away whatever is not eaten.